It happened seemingly overnight, but suddenly the education community is all a-Twitter. Or is it? That’s what Faculty Focus set out to learn when it launched in July 2009 a survey on the role of Twitter in higher education. The survey asked college and university faculty about their familiarity and use of the micro-blogging service, if any, as well as whether they expect their Twitter use to increase or decrease in the future.
In higher education, many of the first adopters were professionals involved in marketing, admissions and alumni relations. Today a growing number of professors use Twitter to connect with like-minded colleagues around the country (or world) as well as in the classroom to keep students engaged, communicate important deadlines, and encourage succinct dialogue.
Get your copy of Twitter in Higher Education 2009: Usage Habits and Trends of Today’s College Faculty!
The Faculty Focus survey of nearly 2,000 higher education professionals found that almost a third (30.7 percent) of the 1,958 respondents who completed the survey are using Twitter in some capacity. More than half (56.4 percent) say they’ve never used Twitter. The remaining 12.9 percent of respondents say they tried it, but no longer use it.
Interestingly, while the majority of faculty do not currently use Twitter, their reasons are varied. Many questioned its educational relevance and expressed concerns that it creates poor writing skills. For others the reasons seemed to boil down to the simple fact that they either don’t know how to use Twitter, or don’t have time to use it.
Key findings of Twitter in Higher Education 2009: Usage Habits and Trends of Today’s College Faculty include:
- 21.9 percent of respondents say they are “familiar” or “very familiar” with Twitter.
- Of those who use Twitter, 21 percent say they “frequently” use it to collaborate with colleagues; 15.6 percent do so “occasionally.”
- Of those who use Twitter, 7.2 percent are “frequently” using it as a learning tool in the classroom; 9.4 percent do so “occasionally.”
- 71.8 percent of current Twitters expect their usage to increase this school year.
- 20.6 percent of current non-Twitter users say there is a “50/50 chance” they will use Twitter as a learning tool in the classroom in the next two years.
- 12.9 percent of respondents say they tried Twitter, but stopped using it because it took too much time, they did not find it valuable, or a combination of reasons.
Survey reveals how faculty are using Twitter, and why some never Tweet.
Depending how they answered the question — “Do you use Twitter?” — respondents were asked a unique set of follow-up questions. The 20-page report provides breakdown of the survey results by question, including comments provided by survey respondents. The comments allowed faculty to further explain how they are using Twitter, why they stopped, or why they have no interest in using it at all.
It is clear that those educators who’ve had a good experience with Twitter are eager to share comments or anecdotes with others, as well as stretch their imagination to find new applications for using the tool to engage students inside and outside of the classroom.
Here are just a few comments from faculty on how they use Twitter effectively:
Currently, we have a Russian instructor using it to tweet on every day activities. His students respond in Russian. It gives him a chance to correct mistakes and it gives the students daily practice in writing and understanding the language. Students from other universities have joined in to make it a very dynamic learning tool.
Turned a traditional assignment into a Twitter assignment. Received more quality and quantity of student input using Twitter.
I use Twitter to encourage students to participate in class. It can be a good tool as long as the professor uses some structure in the discussion – such as posting questions about a reading for the students to answer.
Of the survey participants who answered the question “What are your reasons for NOT using Twitter?” more than 161 added comments to further explain their position. Typically, the comments fell into the following categories:
- No interest in or time to use it
- Concern it creates poor writing skills/has little education value
- Privacy/security issues
- Haven’t used it yet but willing to experiment
- Think it’s a fad that will pass
Here are a few of the comments from educators who don’t use Twitter:
My students don’t need another reason to distract themselves
The only role Twitter would have in education would be to further dumb down the curriculum and the student body.
It seems like another Web 2.0 technology that people are adopting simply because of its buzz factor and not a true ability to support teaching and learning.